Zvi Magen: Shimon Peres Was the Leader of the Peace Process, but We Thought He Was an Utopian Dreamer

Shimon Peres, former Israeli President, former Prime Minister, and former member of Knesset died on Wednesday at the age of 93. "Peres was a highly respected and well-known politician. He represented a rare combination of a great politician and philosopher," Zvi Magen, Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University, and former Israeli ambassador to Russia, told www.valdaiclub.com

"Peres arrived in Palestine - the future Israel - from the current Belarus (then it was Poland). He became an active figure in the future state, close ally to Ben-Gurion, one of the founding fathers of the State of Israel. When Peres did not yet turn thirty, he was already involved in the development of major projects, which until now are essential for the existence of the country - in particular, the nuclear program and other projects related to the security of Israel " - recalled Zvi Magen.

As Minister of Defense and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shimon Peres took part in the formation of the Israeli foreign policy and security policy. Together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat he spearheaded the process that led to the agreement with the Palestinian side. However, his approach to the negotiations with the Palestinians was ambivalent.

"On the one hand, Peres was tough realist: he understood the situation, he grew up in the atmosphere of fight for the security of the country, he realized with whom he was dealing, and took appropriate, very difficult decisions - Zvi Magen said. - On the other hand he was the locomotive of the peace process. He was an optimist, and constantly stressed that one should not lose confidence in the future and stop fighting for peace. We thought he was an Utopian dreamer, who believed in the future peace in the Middle East, and he was so until the last day."

Talking about how Peres saw the relations with Russia, Zvi Magen shared his personal memories.

"At the time, Peres appointed me as ambassador to Ukraine, later - to Moscow. I recall that this was the period after the end of the Cold War. He believed that this is a very important region, and we should make every effort in order to establish normal relations and reach a new level of mutual understanding, "- former Israeli ambassador to Russia said.

"Shimon Peres believed that immigrants from the Soviet Union made a significant contribution not only to the development of our country, but also in building bridge of understanding with Russia", - Magen said.

Moreover, according to Magen, Peres understood the importance of Russia's role as for Israel, and for the entire international system.

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